KENSINGTON – Zac Arsenault understands the 2018-19 season is a big one.
The 17-year-old son of Robert and Kim Arsenault of Montague is entering his third season with the Kensington Monaghan Farms Wild of the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League. He is also coming off a strong training camp with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Charlottetown Islanders, which earned him the opportunity to play in the team’s first two regular-season games last weekend as regulars Hunter Drew and Pierre-Olivier Joseph were attending National Hockey League camps.
“I had a fantastic time up with them,” said Arsenault, who rejoined the Wild for Monday night’s practice. “It’s nice to be back home with the boys.”
A 10th-round draft pick by the Islanders in 2017, Arsenault is coming off a strong camp with the Islanders.
“His compete level was really good and I thought you could start to see him kind of calm down and start to adjust to the speed,” Islanders general manager and head coach Jim Hulton told The Guardian on Thursday night. “We want him to go back to the Wild and be rock-solid defensively, and just get used to moving the puck quick.”
The Wild recently named Arsenault an assistant captain before last week’s home opener, and he will be counted on to be a key contributor.
“We are expecting big things from him,” said Wild head coach Kyle Dunn. “If he wants to make the jump, it all starts here in practice and games, being a leader on and off the ice.”
Hulton is looking for Arsenault to just play his game with the Wild.
“Some guys go back, and they think they have to do too much,” said Hulton. “For me, it’s the exact opposite. Just perfect the simplicity of the game. Make the simple plays, the outlet plays, be rock-solid defensively.”
Arsenault, who will continue practising with the Islanders when available, drew praise from Hulton for his work ethic and attitude.
“He attempts to do what you ask him to do, and that’s a big bonus for a young player,” added Hulton.
Arsenault said it was a great learning experience with the Islanders.
“I looked up to the older guys with the way they play the game, and I want to try to bring that back here,” said Arsenault, who had 16 points in 32 regular-season games.
The Wild, who is off to a 1-1-0 (won-lost-overtime losses) start, could not have timed Arsenault’s return any better. The team will be missing seven regulars for Saturday’s home game against the undefeated Moncton Flyers (3-0) at Credit Union Centre in Kensington on Saturday. The Wild will get assistant captain Ryan Richards back from suspension for Sunday afternoon’s road game against the Fredericton Caps (1-1-2).
Sometimes a short bench brings guys together, and there is nobody looking down the bench and saying, ‘Who’s going to do it?,’” said Dunn. “You have to look at yourself and pull your own weight. Hopefully, all our guys can do that this weekend.”
Sophomore forward Dixon MacLeod will miss both games due to an injury while goaltender Josh Smith, defencemen Zach Biggar and Matt McQuaid, along with forwards Jack Campbell and Simon Hughes, are attending a pre-Canada Games tournament in Dartmouth, N.S. Dunn will also miss both games as he is head coach of Team P.E.I. Veteran assistant coach Duane Richards and rookie assistant Campbell Gallant will handle the Wild bench duties this weekend.
The Wild received notification that Hughes has been approved by Hockey P.E.I. to join the Wild as a bantam-aged player.
“He’s been welcomed to the Wild,” noted Dunn, who confirmed Hughes’s signing leaves the Wild with two open cards. “We have to get him a name bar!”